Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

A Nightmare To Remember

“Black Clouds and Silver Linings” is Dream Theater’s last album with Mike Portnoy.

The opening track “A Nightmare To Remember” is 16 minutes plus. Four songs in one to sink your teeth into.

The opening 2 minutes could have come from a black metal act or a thrash metal act. But it didn’t. It came from these Jersey dudes. Then from about 1.50 to 2.20 some of the best hard rock bands in the world wished they were writing head banging riffs like this.

The first verse riff is palm muted, with the swagger of Guns N Roses “Appetite For Destruction” album. Then John Petrucci brings out the wah wah pedal, showing Kirk Hammett how it should be used and the. its back into the head banging verse riff.

And the song’s music just keeps morphing as the lyrics detail a car accident that John Petrucci’s family had when he was young.

I really like the clean tone section from the 5 minute mark. It’s very “Diary Of A Madman” and it connects immediately. It’s like a different song, and that chorus like section when James LaBrie sings “hopelessly drifting” is super melodic.

And by 8.30 that clean tone part is done, as Petrucci moves into a jazz fusion solo, then Jordan Rudess starts to solo on the keys and the instrumental section of the song is before us.

They trade solos until the 10.30 mark and the song is back to the black metal style intro with a lot of chromatic style soloing. Portnoy takes over on the vocals here, bringing a growl element to it. It was hated by reviewers and elitists but we liked it. As I’ve said before, you need to accept the cheese elements with Dream Theater.

Then at about 12.10 it moves to another instrumental section. This section has got more of a “Learning To Live” vibe from “Images And Words” which I like.

And at 13.20 its back into the singing, before it moves into a few familiar riffs played throughout the song and then back to the intro black metal riff to close the song off. This time, Portnoy brings out the blast beats.

And at 16 minutes, the ride is over.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Best Of Times

This song has three distinct movements that grab me.

The excellent melancholic intro which comes in again as a sad and tragic symphony around the 6.20 minute mark.

If you like Rush, you will like this song. That riff that comes in at the 2.45 mark, reminds me of “The Spirit Of Radio”. And you can’t escape the Rush’isms in the first verse vocal delivery and phrasing.

That Petrucci solo from the 10 minute mark to the end. It’s emotive, it’s sad, its hopeful, its classical and from the 10.50 minute mark, he shows why he is one of the most formidable guitarist when he decides to step on the pedal, ease off, and step on it again, to ease off again. And after 13 minutes, the song ends.

The lyrics are written by Mike Portnoy for his dad Howard Portnoy as he was dying of cancer. This song has never been played live by Dream Theater. When Portnoy was in the band it was too emotional for him to play it and after he left, it hasn’t been included in a set list without him. There is a demo version as well with Portnoy actually doing the vocals. It appeared as a the B-side to the “Wither” single.

But as a guitarist, I need to mention again, the ending solo from Petrucci. It’s emotional, it’s got shred, and a lot of melody. Basically you don’t want it to end.

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Music, Stupidity

What The?

I was cleaning out a few of the different pockets in my work lap top bag when I came across this.

Yep it’s a year old unused concert ticket.

And I was like what the?

How the fuck did I forget to go to this?

I remember I had a Ticketek voucher given to me for my birthday in 2016. I remember using that voucher in 2017 to purchase this ticket. I actually purchased two tickets to the concert.

And then nothing. I printed em out and put em in my work bag and totally forgot about them.

So I’m replaying all the events in my mind as to what would have made me totally forget that I had a ticket for this concert.

Maybe it’s the date of the concert, which is a day after my birthday. Maybe it was something to do with the kids. I can’t recall anything earth shattering happening. I’m really stumped and I’m pissed at myself for missing this.

Lesson learned.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Divided We Stand. But It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way.

Metallica resorted to a professional coach to get it together again. So did Aerosmith.

Motley Crue imploded at the peak of their powers with the firing of Vince Neil and then sued each other in the courts. Then when Vince Neil was back in, John Corabi was out and soon it was Tommy Lee that was out.

Bon Jovi and Megadeth resorted to group therapy. For Bon Jovi it was a way to keep the band together after “New Jersey” and for Megadeth it was a way to keep a stable line-up together.

Van Halen ousted David Lee Roth and there was a few years of bad mouthing each other. Then when Sammy Hagar was ousted, the feud turned ugly with both sides airing their dirty laundry.

Guns N Roses appetite for destruction more or less has the band as an Axl Rose solo project. According to Axl, “Slash is a cancer”. There was a lawsuit as well from Axl to Slash to stop the “It’s Five O Clock Somewhere” album as Axl claimed those songs were written for Guns N Roses by Slash.

Scott Weiland had a nasty split with his first act, Stone Temple Pilots (on more than one occasion) as well as with the Velvet Revolver project that featured Slash.

Sebastian Bach and Skid Row are still at loggerheads. Matt Kramer left Saigon Kick because he felt ripped off.

Machine Head and Adam Duce are in the courts because Adam Duce felt ripped off. Dave Lombardo is spitting venom at Slayer and their management team because he feels ripped off.

Paul Stanley went to town on Ace and Peter, calling them anti-semitic. Gene Simmons said that Ace and Peter didn’t deserve to wear the make up.

Dream Theater and Mike Portnoy ended their relationship abruptly.

And Rock and Roll was supposed to be fun. Yeah right, I hear people say.

The ugly truth is that the biggest obstacle standing between musicians and a career in music is the simple fact that we cannot get along.

Every band I have been in imploded because I was writing the music and the lyrics from the beginning. So when the other members realised that I am getting extra royalties and publishing moneys, then money becomes a factor and suddenly everybody wants to write a song or make suggestions to change a finished song just so they could a songwriting credit.

And I said NO a lot of times.

And that starts to put a strain on the relationship and the band dynamics. Eventually we became assholes to each other and one of the main commandments that I swear by is to “Don’t Be An Asshole”.

It’s easier said than done. Especially in metal and rock circles. You know, we are all alpha males in this business.

So how can we achieve a healthier band dynamic.

We need to handle criticism better. At one point in my life, the way I offered criticism wasn’t at all constructive and criticism towards me was seen as a personal attack.

Don’t be assholes to each other as everyone is replaceable.

True love of music is the best reward. Money is a byproduct.

Realise that if the guitarist does come in with a completed song, or an albums worth of songs, it’s okay. Same goes for the other musicians in the band. And if your song doesn’t make the cut, that is also okay.

If the band is a democracy, then happy creating, however let me tell you one truth. Bands that claim that their songwriting is a democracy are lying. There is always one that will be the boss.

Look at Van Halen. Songwriting credits originally showed Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth. However it is a well-known fact that Eddie Van Halen wrote all the music and David Lee Roth wrote the lyrics, with little input from Van Halen’s rhythm section.

Slow and steady wins the race. Remember a music career is a lifers game.

You will get screwed by someone in the music business. Don’t let it get you down. Roll with it and learn from it.

In order to be seen or be heard, we need to stand united.

Don’t see every other artist or band as competition. The history of rock n roll shows that it was friendships and recommendations from other artists that broke artists to an audience. This is needed even more so in 2014.

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Music, My Stories

Adrenaline Mob

“Men Of Honour” is a really good solid hard rock / heavy metal album in the same vein as all of the great hard rock albums of this genre from the Eighties. And that is what Adrenaline Mob essentially is. Seasoned professionals collaborating on a hard rock project. For some reason they remind me of Night Ranger.

The debut album “Omerta” was number 4 on my list for releases in 2012. I hold the vocal talents of Russell Allen and the guitar talents of Mike Orlando in high regard. Add to those talents the powerhouse drumming from Mike Portnoy on the first album (and the two EPs) and of course the mighty AJ Pero appears on the second album. As a Twisted Sister fan, this is a great thing to see happen. And finally John Moyer from Disturbed is providing the bottom end.

Listening to “Men Of Honour”, it comes across as a band having fun and man it rocks hard and it is saturated with groove.

In the U.S, Soundscan tells us that it sold 3,600 copies in its first week of release. Seriously does anyone care about the sales. Go on Spotify. You will see that with all the songs combined, Adrenaline Mob has racked up a total stream count of 98,177 streams. On YouTube, the “Come On Get Up” (LYRIC VIDEO) on the Century Media Records has had 184,489 views. The “Mob Is Back” and “Feel The Adrenaline” lyric videos are both over 50,000 views each.

Of course compared to the numbers that the mainstream pop artists are getting, it pales, however Adrenaline Mob are not trying to do battle with Imagine Dragons or One Republic. They want to be kings of their hard rock niche.

I had heard of Mike Orlando but I never knew any of his music. He is like that star guard that slips under the radar, doing his thing. “The Mob Is Back” has that Eddie Van Halen “Eruption” thing for the first minute before it moves into the actual song. Remember the era when bands used to write songs purely for the rock n roll show instead of the charts. Well, this is one such song. It is a live song. A song to let our hair down to and rock away.

“Turn out the lights, we are all here tonight, We came to throw down, the Mob’s back in town.”

I don’t know what to call Orlando’s guitar style. One term I have for it is “Technical Chaos”. He has the chops, but he plays more with improvised abandonment then precision and I like that.

How good is the bridge like part in “Come On And Get Up”. The part I am talking about has the following lyrics;

This is the bed you made
You got one foot in the grave
And you’re slowly dying
Now here’s where you make your stand
Cause your life is in your hands
And there’s no denying
So quit your crying

It’s the arena rock like chorus (and it is a bridge) intertwined with the current modern rock radio verses.

“Dearly Departed” keeps the momentum going. The vocal phrasing reminds me of the great Ronnie James Dio. The track starts off with power, full of attitude and then when they hit the chorus, it’s like Russell Allen is kneeling at the altar and testifying.

When it’s time to die
You can cry your heart out when you’re lying face down
The chords they never lie
Don’t tell me that you’re sorry
‘Cause no-one else is sorrier than me

Adrenaline Mob are a band that will make their money from touring and merchandise. They know that and that is why they write songs specifically for the live show. It is their own niche radio station.

Century Media is their North American and European label. They do great work for metal and rock in general, however I still think they are a label that doesn’t get the current recording business. For example, Century Media did all the things that worked two decades ago.

The album had two different release dates for the US and Europe. Corporate Deals got organised for album streams and track streams. Back in the day, these used to be radio promo singles. Lyric Videos (aka Music Videos) got released in the lead up.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, Unsung Heroes

Lifers

If you want to have a career in the music business “Lifer” is a term that you need to get used to. You need to be in it for life.

Look at Mike Portnoy. He is a lifer. He lives and breathes music. In his youth, he worked in a record shop and substituted his pay for records. It shows his life commitment to music. Since December 2010, he has pushed out new music on a consistent basis and he has toured non-stop behind that new music. I can’t say I like everything from the bands that Portnoy is involved in, however he understands the current music business. And as much as the metal and rock bands don’t like it, the music recording business is not about releasing an album of 10 songs or more every two years and then touring behind it.

The recording business is about releasing music consistently. Capturing that spontaneity. When music is too thought out it loses its soul. It becomes processed. Even though I am not a big fan of “The Winery Dogs”, I do appreciate the soul of the songs, that loose feeling that anything could happen. This brings to mind a quote from Kevin Shirley who was the producer on the Dream Theater “Falling Into Infinity” album. He loved the original solo take that John Petrucci did for the song “Hollow Years” because it had this spontaneous feeling to it that fit the mood of the song. However Petrucci didn’t like it because it wasn’t precise enough and of course, Petrucci ended up re-doing the solo section to make it precise.

Going back to Portnoy, in 2011 he was involved in the Adrenaline Mob EP, the Neal Morse “Testimony 2” album as well as a tribute album to The Beatles (with Paul Gilbert, Neal Morse, and Kasim Sulton) called “Yellow Matter Custard – One More Night in New York City”.

2012 saw the release of the Adrenaline Mob album “Omertà”, the Flying Colors self-titled debut album as well as another Neal Morse album called “Momentum”.

2013 saw the release of a covers album from Adrenaline Mob called “Covertà”, as well as the self-titled debut from The Winery Dogs. In addition, live releases came out from the “Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine and Sherinian” 2012 tour called “Live In Tokyo” as well as the Flying Colors 2012 European tour called “Live in Europe”.

2014 will see a new Transatlantic album called “Kaleidoscope” as well as the new BigElf album that Portnoy played drums on called “Into The Maelstrom”. Also in the pipework’s is a new Flying Colors album and a live release from “The Winery Dogs”.

In amongst all the studio time of the official releases, Portnoy was on the road, touring. That is a lifer to me. He implored Damon Fox from Bigelf to carry on when he thought about throwing in the towel and even stepped up to the plate to play drums. That is a lifer inspiring another musician to also become a lifer. It’s contagious.

What about bassist, Marco Mendoza? Who you say?

The first time I heard Marco was on the Blue Murder album “Nothin But Trouble” released in 1993. He then fell in with John Sykes, appearing on “Screaming Blue Murder” in 1994 and then on John Sykes’s solo album in 1995 called “Out Of My Tree.” He also appeared on the 1997 albums “Loveland” and “20th Century Heartache” and “Nuclear Cowboy” released in 2000. That year also saw a Thin Lizzy (this is the version that John Sykes put together in 1994,with guitarist Scott Gorham, keyboard player Darren Wharton and drummer Brian Downey. After a few one-off concerts, the band toured more consistently from 1996 until 2000, with Downey being replaced by Tommy Aldridge) live release called “One Night Only” as well as his involvement with David Coverdale’s solo album “Into The Light.”

Real musicians are lifers. He hasn’t had that hit single or appeared on that hit album, but that doesn’t make Marco any less successful.

He spent time with Ted Nugent, went back to John Sykes, then jumped ship to Whitesnake, while still continuing with the John Sykes Thin Lizzy project up until 2009. That project then became Black Star Riders. In between he appeared in Lynch Mob and their Smoke and Mirrors album in 2009. He is going to tour Australia with the band “The Dead Daises” led by former Noiseworks vocalist Jon Stevens.

Would you say that Marco Mendoza has been successful at his music career?

Marco has played with two of my biggest guitar influences in John Sykes and George Lynch. He is a great vocalist and from watching the live Whitesnake DVD from 2006, he hits those highs that Glenn Hughes did in “Burn”.

He has never been without a decent sized gig and if he is, he has his little solo band and his jazz three-piece project that play the bars and the clubs. The bottom line is that he is working non-stop. He is a lifer when it comes to music. That is why he is still around. While record labels whine about the lack of recorded sales in a society where streaming has won the war, Marco is the definition of the long hard slog to have a musical career. A lifer. Excellence is the key. That is why he is in demand. He fits in well, is professional and he doesn’t have a social media presence.

You want a career in music, prepare to be a lifer.

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Influenced, Music

Dream Theater need to record new music ASAP & Is Mike Portnoy being written out of Dream Theater Lore?

So I gave the DT album another spin today. Favourite tracks are still…

The Bigger Picture – By far the best song on the album (both music and vocal melodies). It’s got a few Coldplay moments in addition with a few nods to Dream Theater’s past. Petrucci talked about encapsulating the past. This song does that. Isn’t it funny what some restraint can do

Illumination Theory – This would have been the best song on the album if it didn’t have that ridiculous Jordan Rudess sound effect interlude between 7.21 and 11.05. What a waste of space and time? However the movement that comes afterwards makes up for it. All I can say, is that we have a waste of space in “The Count of Tuscany” and we have the same in “Illumination Theory”. Let’s not have it again.

The next three songs have brilliant music, however the vocal melodies just don’t have the WOW factor.

Behind the Veil, The Looking Glass and Surrender To Reason.

For some reason “The Enemy Inside” doesn’t grab me. Listening to it today, it just reminds me of “Bridges In The Sky.”

Definitely have no connection to “False Awakening Suite”, “Enigma Machine” (which is a shame as the intro is heavy and evil and it deserved to be fleshed out better) and “Along For The Ride”.

So I went back to the “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” album. Still a big fan of the songs that became my favourites after the first listen.

Songs like “On The Backs Of Angels”, “Outcry” and “Breaking All Illusions” stand up with the best that Dream Theater has written. It’s safe to add to that list “The Bigger Picture” and “Illumination Theory”.

I still believe that Dream Theater needs to go back into the studio and record a few more songs to promote the upcoming tour. Do something that the fans don’t expect?

Also is it just me or is Mike Portnoy’s lyrical influence being written out of Dream Theater lore?

Look at the songs that make up the Live at Luna Park DVD. How many of them have lyrics written by Mike Portnoy?

If you said three out of thirty-six songs, you are right.

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